OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

A reflective blog exploring recycling & sustainability initiatives at the Overseas School of Colombo

Archive for the ‘Solid Waste Management’ Category

Biogas Initiative at OSC

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OSC’s Biogas unit being installed by the school’s maintenance team behind the science labs in October 2018.

Solid domestic waste (SDW) continues to be a pressing issue at different scales here in Sri Lanka. The problem of managing solid waste on OSC’s campus challenges our community as it does the city and country. Earlier this semester we took small steps to address the issue of managing the campus’ biodegradable food waste using a biogas plant.

Local Challenges with The Global Issue of SDW

Readers will remember that Sri Lanka’s solid waste problem exploded in the public’s consciousness with the tragic Meethotamulla collapse in April 2017. Since then the authorities have struggled to propose a way forward. Key leaders include the Governments Central Environment Authority and the Ministry of Megapolis. At the moment, the management approach is focused on making a larger landfill north of the city at Kerwalapitiya in the Puttalam District (see Sunday Observer). However, this is fraught with risks and there are already alarming reports and images of elephants and other wildlife feeding on poorly managed SDW in rural areas of Sri Lanka (see Sunday Times). The merits of putting a large land fill site next to Wilpattu National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s most important protected areas, is also questionable. There is also discussion on developing “waste to energy” plants to deal with Colombo’s SDW (see the Daily Mirror from August 10 2017)

R&S SDW Strategy at OSC

The approach of OSC’s Recycling and Sustainability service group is to work hard to reduce and recycle what the school community is discarding. Our group’s mission, of course, is to reduce the school’s ecological footprint. We know from informal studies that more than half of our SWD is organic and can be composted if we have the right infrastructure in place. About 10 years ago we experimented with compost on campus but poor maintenance, oversight and the design of the concrete bins contributed to a lack of success with this will intended initiative. Since then our organic waste has been being picked up by municipal workers. This is a less than perfect situation as the wet waste it is often mixed with recyclables and other waste contributing to a foul smell at the garbage depot near the school entrance.

Biogas Dreams

The idea of installing a biogas plant to deal with campus organic waste was rooted in developments in household biogas plants by the plastic manufacturer Arpico and a MYP exhibition project in 2014. The exhibition was a student exploration of alternatives with leadership provided by Tassy Dalhan in the Grade 5 team. It took a while, but the ideas have finally resulted in concrete action. A year ago Class of 2020 student Disara Samayawardhena researched biogas plants and made a model unit for her MYP Personal Project. In May 2018 Disara, Mr Cirshanta Fernando the campus administrator and I visited the household plant designed and owned by Sunil Weilvata, an employee of the National Engineering Research  and Development Centre of Sri Lanka (NERDC). We were impressed by what we saw and it was Sunil’s unit that formed the basis for our plan. At the end of the school year the R&S Service group committed funds (from our years of paper recycling earnings) to the biogas project and the school made up the small difference of the LKR 70,000 unit.

Over the summer Sunil worked on the unit and it was delivered and installed behind the science labs in early October 2018. At the moment, we are charging it with daily inputs of cow dung and it will soon be ready to start taking organic waste from the cafeteria.

OSC’s Biogas plant has several goals:

  • To better manage and reduce the wet (food) waste on the OSC campus.
  • To produce renewable CH4 to use as a fuel source (for demonstration cooking).
  • To produce slurry that can be used as a fertilizer (we will add this to the septic system initially)

Our current challenges are the following:

  • The system needs careful weekly, if not daily, monitoring.
  • We need to be able to measure inputs and outputs from the system using weigh scales and gas pressure gauges. At the moment, these systems are not in place.
  • We need the school community to do a better job with separating waste in the canteen. At the moment plastic, tinfoil and other non-biodegradables are showing up in our food bins.

 

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

Attanayake, Dimuthu. “How to dump the trash.” Sunday Observer. 10 June 2018. Web.

Daniel, Shannine. “Meethotamulla: One Year On.” Roar. 2 May 2018. Web.

Environmental Impact Assessment Report of the Proposed Project on Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management project Final Report. Ministry of Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage. Colombo, 2015. Web.

Fairways Waste Management. Web.

“Garbage projects coming on stream to help ease disposal issues.” Sunday Times. 5 August 2018. Web.

Lanka Biogas. Web.

“Solid Waste Management: A Way Forward.” Daily Financial Times (FT).  25 July 2017. Web.

“Status of Waste Management in Sri Lanka.” Environment Foundation Ltd. (EFL).14 June 2017. Web.

The Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management Project.  Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. Central Environment Authority. 2017.Web.

Wipulasena, Aanya. “Despite EIA report and protests: Govt ploughs through Aruwakkalu landfill project.” Sunday Observer. 10 October 2018. Web.

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Written by ianlockwood

2018-11-27 at 8:32 AM

Learning from Meethotamulla

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Meethotamulla dump site after the landslide and tragedy. Image courtesy of the Sri Lanka Air Force.

A week ago disaster and tragedy struck Colombo’s Meethotamulla garbage dump. The images and stories depict a heartbreaking chronicle of poor management, environmental neglect and human misery. Thus far, the press has been busy pointing fingers at various government agencies and political parties for blame of the disaster. The more difficult truth is that all of us are culpable in the problem that led to the disaster at Meethotamulla. The root problem is our high-consumption lifestyle and the solid waste that it generates. The amount of waste is significant but it is largely out of sight to most of us. Meethotamulla has provided a painful wakeup call. There are now efforts underway in our community to assist families affected by the collapse of the garbage dump. These are important initiatives but the tragedy provides a broader teachable moment where each one of us can do something to address the root problem that led to the landslide.

All of us are consumers and our waste, whether at home or at work, is collected and has been added to the mountain of rubbish at Meethotamulla. To get a sense for our school’s waste generation walk up the gym approach road and note the smell and sometimes overflowing numbers of black garbage bags. We send an average of two wagon load of solid waste off campus every week. I suggest that an appropriate response to the tragedy is to look for ways that we can reduce the amount of solid waste that we produce at school and at home. In the following section I include some suggestions that are based on personal experience and experiments to reduce my own ecological footprint at school and at home.

Reducing Solid Waste at School

  • At OSC we have had an ongoing campaign get the canteen to use washable plates and silverware. The initiative started with the Recycling & Sustainability (Train to Sustain) service group but was taken up by Reefkeepers and eventually the Canteen Committee. The initiative took several years of active lobbying but the changeover in December 2016 has made a difference in reducing solid waste. There is still, however, work to be done. The canteen is still selling juice in disposable cups with plastic lids and straws. We need to move on eliminating all the plastics and using washable cups.
  • Thus far, we are not composting any kitchen or garden waste produced by OSC.  In 2015 a Grade 5 class exhibition group  investigated the idea of using a biodigester to deal with kitchen and garden waste. The R&S group agreed to fund it with money from recycled paper sales but that proposal has not been given sanction from the school.
  • Waste separation is an area that each one of us on campus can do a better job with. The feedback from the maintenance crew is that the OSC community is not separating items in the three categories of bins. This makes it hard for the garbage collectors to separate, recycle and thus reduce the amount going to the landfill.

Reducing Solid Waste at Home

  • Follow the three Rs (Reduce Reuse Recycle). Reduce what you consume and make every effort to not take or buy disposable items like plastic bags.
  • When you shop, use reusable shopping bags. There are even reusable mesh bags for vegetables that have been pioneered in our community by Rachel Jackson, Clover Hicks and Raina Lockwood. Reefkeepers will be selling these shortly. These efforts reduce the amount of single use plastic that you take home. Check out Rice and Carry’s innovative ways of reusing rice bags to help reduce disposable shopping bags.
  • Separate your waste at home. This is probably the single best thing that you can do. Wet waste from the kitchen can be composted. A study that I did of my home suggests that roughly 50% or more of household waste is wet waste and mostly compostable. Household composting is a viable option for most of us with gardens and, if managed correctly, will lead to reduction in solid waste and smelly garbage bags.
  • We have the facility to recycle cardboard and paper and PET plastic here at school and you are welcome to bring in items to us. We ask that any plastic bottles are cleaned. For parents and teachers, the R&S group can provide guidance on where to go to sell your paper and cardboard if you have large volumes. This waste actually pays and the R&S groups has built up a capital fund thanks to paper and cardboard sales over the past 12 years.
  • We collect hazardous and E-waste items such as batteries and printer cartridges. We are working with Dialog to give these items to them or recycling. The Orange lighting company takes back CFLs bulbs. Thus don’t mix these into regular garbage bags.

Meethotamulla was an unnecessary human-made tragedy but we can learn from the experience and do a better job so that we do not contribute to a future solid waste disaster.

 

FURTHER LINKS

Bresnick, Sam.  “Lessons from the World.” Daily News. 18 April 2017. Web.

Kotelawala, Himal. “Sri Lanka Death Toll Rises in Garbage Dump Collapse.” New York Times. 17 April 2017.   Web.

“Meethotamulla tragedy.” Daily Mirror. 18 April 2017.  Web.

Wipulasena, Aanya. “Authorities’ promises stink as much as garbage mountain.” Daily Mirror. 6 July  2014.  Web.

Written by recycling1011

2017-04-20 at 3:04 PM